Every race presents its own unique challenge. Sometimes the challenge is the weather, sometimes the terrain. Sometimes it's your own level of fitness, not being where you want it to be. When I reach the start line of a race, I try to let go of all my suppositions about what the day's challenge was supposed to have been. When the gun sounds, there is only the race, and me.
I don't always succeed in this. But the point, when it works, is that I don't beat myself up about, say, driving rain preventing a PR day. Or, more to the point for this weekend's race, a bitter snowy winter partially (but not entirely) excusing a string of bad training weeks, leaving me nowhere near where I hoped I'd be in terms of fitness.
I ran the Foxboro Old Fashioned 10 Miler on Sunday. When I reflect on the race in the light I described, I give it a performance of....adequate. I was breathing hard; I felt sluggish, I did not feel quick, or excited, or aggressive. I went to work on that race like a man digging a ditch, or filling in the ditch some other dumb fella had just dug. Little excitement in the last mile except at the prospect of finishing.
I was slower than last year. But at the same time I held up OK. From the perspective of the year's theme ("redeeming the long race", remember?) it was satisfactory, or at least not a disgrace.
I think most of this is just winter blues. Last Friday, on my walk home from work, a warm wind was blowing through the town of Needham MA. I stripped off my vest, and then my fleece, stuffing them in my pack, and ran in my shirt-sleeves, warm air against my skin. It felt beautiful, like running is always supposed to feel.
Spring can't come soon enough.